Russell the Rainmaker: Touring in Early Cold War Australia


  • Jo-Anne Grant Griffith University



During his 1950 lecture tour of Australia, Bertrand Russell was given the nickname “Russell the Rainmaker” due to unseasonably wet weather in the eastern states that appeared to accompany his travels. This humorous name represents a central idea that shaped his tour. Russell was convinced that the technical ability to make rain could transform Australia’s largely dry landscape and boost the nation’s farming potential, which could, in turn, support a new age of happiness and prosperity. Russell used this vision of the future to imagine a safe refuge for Western civilization in case Europe was destroyed in a possible nuclear Third World War. This paper will discuss how his Australian tour was an important moment of both hope and anxiety in his life. Russell’s idea of a pastoral utopia in Australia that relied on optimism about the capability of science to transform the landscape can be understood as a key way in which he responded intellectually to the events of the early Cold War.